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Our View: Roe in 2022

The high court is poised to find out what Americans really think

Two generations of American women have grown up believing themselves free. If the United States Supreme Court tells them otherwise, there could be hell to pay.

Many of those who follow the court think it likely that in 2022 it will overturn Roe vs. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that recognized women’s constitutional right to abortion. Whether that will happen is a prediction best left to legal scholars.

What is certain is that if the court does undo Roe nobody will be satisfied. Women will be struck by the fact that the court will have reversed itself, not to expand or reinforce a constitutional right, but to deny one – one that is specific to women. Abortion foes will be faced with the fact that overturning Roe will not end abortion.

What such a ruling will do – besides harming the most vulnerable members of our society – will be to spawn new initiatives to protect a right the court will have chosen not to defend. Should Roe be reversed a great many Americans will be extraordinarily angry.

Abortion opponents pay no heed to that. Their view of themselves as defending innocent lives allows no compromise. But their goal of ending abortion will not be fulfilled.

It is true that in some states women’s rights will be curtailed, but in others there will be excited efforts to expand and extend them. And there will be new and imaginative ways to do that. This is not 1972.

Texas cannot make it a crime for someone in California to put pills in the mail. Alabama cannot bar folks in other states from buying women bus tickets.

Already there are reports of women’s groups in Mexico organizing to help their sisters in Texas get the so-called abortion pills or with travel plans to places where they can safely and legally have an abortion. Imagine how that plays out when women on our coasts get revved up.

Think, too, of the politicians who have cynically milked abortion for votes. For almost 49 years the anger and energy has been on the anti-abortion side for the simple reason that for all that time women could relax behind a court-defended constitutional right. With that, politicians could shamelessly flog the issue without actually having to do anything.

Flip that scenario and the lives of Mitch McConnell and his ilk could get very interesting very quickly. It could not happen to a more deserving bunch.

Those who would curtail women’s rights also seem to assume that without Roe abortion would automatically be restricted. It would, in some places. But it is helpful to remember that Colorado liberalized its abortion law six years before Roe. Our state is not about to reverse that simply because a court says it can.

The Supreme Court should do the right thing and take a pass on this. It should acknowledge that Roe is settled law, an ongoing part of American life.

If it does not, buckle up. It is going to be quite a ride.